EDINBURGH RUGBY assistant coach Stevie Lawrie has admitted his team’s priority this season is the Pro14, but that won’t dim their desire to out on a performance when they travel to France to play Agen in the European Challenge Cup on Friday.

Edinburgh have been flying in the Pro14 so far this year and having missed out on the European Champions Cup having reached the quarter finals last year, the second tier of European competition holds less of an attraction.

But Lawrie is also well aware that the Challenge Cup represents an opportunity for a number of players in the squad to get some valuable game time, particularly now the capital side have almost all of their internationalists back in action after their return from the Rugby World Cup.

“It’s an interesting dynamic because obviously we are integrating the Scottish guys steadily, and the Challenge Cup represents another opportunity for us to do that, and it potentially offers an opportunity for a bit of a change up in squad and give other guys a chance,” he said.

“We recognise that we have this 13 game stretch and we are going to have to utilise our squad.

“Look, it’s exciting. You get to go to France, you get to play different opposition, so it is a little bit different to what we are used to.

“Certainly, the Top 14, in terms of our preview – it’s pretty blunt – you are going to have some big men coming hard at you pretty close to the ruck, and we are going to have to match that with our physicality.

“The league is absolutely the priority, but it doesn’t affect how we approach it. That fans get excited about playing in Europe, as do we as coaches and players, so our preparation hasn’t changed.”

Alongside Agen, Edinburgh have been grouped with B with Bordeaux-Begles and Wasps and Lawrie realises that these games are exciting prospects for the fans. The French side are currently second bottom of their domestic league but Lawrie is under no illusions that his side will face a tough task to maintain their winning form on Friday.

“They had a tough result against Bordeaux at the weekend but I also recognise in their results that they’re very tough at home and they’re very proud,” he said.

“So we’ll be expecting an extremely strong team and then potentially less so for their second game because that gives them a down week before they go back into fighting for their lives in the top 14. But I expect them to be strong at home this weekend.”

In the absence of the internationalists, Edinburgh’s remaining players have stepped up to the task of replacing them admirably. And Lawrie admits to having been particularly impressed by a couple of his squad.

“Guys like (Pietro) Ceccarelli who’s held up the scrum really well, Mikey Willemse who’s come in, there’s a whole host of guys who have added value to the pack while the traditional starters have been away and that’s the exciting thing,” he said.

“And Luke Crosbie, week on week he’s been outstanding in terms of how he’s approached things and played. Lewis Carmichael is a bit of a new player for us because he was out injured for so long last year. They’ve come in and done well. We’ve got quality through the squad.

“And Nick Haining coming in to push Mata and Bradbury in that 8 berth, we’ve got genuine depth there which is exciting.”